I know of runners who don’t train with their dogs. Their reasons surprise me – too hot, too cold, the dog can’t keep up, the dog pulls. To me there is something terribly wrong with these excuses. Dogs are meant to run.
As for me, I refuse to leave my mutt Ace behind, even if that means walking.
Ace is a tall, shorthaired lab mix. He’s mostly retriever but has a lean frame with visible muscles like a Vizsla or Weimaraner. He slows and does his best not to pull during my slower days. On his slow days (they are rare) or if he gets too hot, I decrease my running speed as well. After all, if it weren’t for Ace, I might’ve quit running a long time ago.
Running is something I can call my own. It’s something for just my dogs and me. My boyfriend does not run. My family members do not run. My friends in town do not run. But the dogs? They’re always eager for a run.
I got the idea to train for a full marathon in January 2007. This was before I had a dog of my own. I went out for my first 14-mile training run. Then a 15-miler. Then 16 miles.
Thoughts about what dog I would adopt filled my mind during these runs and motivated me to keep going. I’d been reading humane society and rescue profiles online and had my mind set on a few dogs – Ace being one of them.
I adopted my mutt in March, just two months before the 2007 Fargo Marathon. Ace immediately took on his role as my running buddy and accompanied me on my typical 6-mile runs as well as longer 10- to 20-mile runs once a week. His frame and energy made him an ideal training partner.
When it’s –20 degrees in Fargo, Ace is still willing to run. Sometimes it’s so cold that my eyelashes freeze together and Ace’s drool crystallizes. We don’t care. I throw on an extra layer and Ace wears his boots and vest and out we go.
I know what times of day to run and on which routes during what seasons in order to maximize my time alone – time with my dog or whatever dog I happen to be running at that particular hour.
Running is exciting because I know that the older I get, the stronger I will become. At 26, I am not yet in my running prime. I realize this is all a matter of attitude, but I refuse to believe I should be slowing down already. My faster times, fewer injuries and increased mileage prove my point.
Still, after just two and a half years of running with my dog, I’ve noticed my dog’s pace has slowed. Already, Ace is older than me (about 34 or so) in dog years.
Good thing I don’t care much about speed. If I leave my watch at home or refuse to look at it until I get home, Ace keeps me at a steady 10-minute mile pace. It seems to be where we have melded after so many workouts together.
My mutt Ace, as well as the canine runners across the country offer more support to runners than they will ever know.
If I can offer a dog one thing, it’s to go for a run. Whether it’s a paid client, a rescue dog, a friend or family member’s dog or my mutt Ace, you won’t find me running without a buddy at my side.
For more, see my other post on my dog running business.